No hyperbole can come close to conveying the extent to which this film sucks. Boring, stupid and (hopefully) forgettable, “The Hills Have Eyes” is a remake (what isn’t these days?) of a 1977 Wes Craven flick by the same name. But it might also be called a remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), or the more recent and similarly cliched “Wrong Turn” (2003). A family gone vacationing, a shortcut gone wrong and a team of deformed, maniacal cannibals gone Dick-Cheney-with-a-shotgun — that’s all anyone really needs to know.
But studio-tool director Alexandre Aja is obligated to fill 107 minutes, which he manages to do, albeit with a script so painfully dull that it feels unfortunately longer. What’s worse is the annoying sociopolitical premise mixed with Barbara-Walters-ready pathos — that what caused these hill-dwellers to become so physiologically mangled (passed on through incestuous generations) is the U.S. military’s choice to test nuclear weapons over their homes years back. They can’t help the way they are, and who can blame them for just wanting to barbecue some pathetically-acted tourists? Sorry, Angelina, they don’t offer adoption services.
The tourists in this movie acquire tired characters like retired police officer Dad (Ted Levine), ex-hippie Mom (Kathleen Quinlan), three older kids, a son-in-law, a baby and two dogs, all of whom have piled into their truck ‘n’ trailer to drive across the desert. They stop at a dusty old gas station and naively take the advice of Mr. I-Live-Alone-and-Work-at-a-Gas-Station-in-the-Desert, who sends them down a dead-end deathtrap of a dirt road, damn it.
Minutes later, with tires irrevocably flattened and dusk falling faster than their acting careers, the family splits up to find help. Great idea! Dad, after handing his teenage son a 9mm handgun, innocently traipses back toward the gas station, while the son-in-law heads off in the direction of cell phone service but instead discovers an enormous crater chock-full of abandoned vehicles. Rather than worry, he celebrates his lucky finds of fishing tackle and a teddy bear for his baby girl. Meanwhile, back at the trailer, despair settles in as Dad fails to return and a dog disappears. Soon enough, subhuman noises start echoing from the hills, quickly followed by a series of horrific deaths and laughable extended deaths (“I love you!” whimpers a Deadhead mommie, sans stomach tissue) at the hands, and the pickaxes, of aforementioned maniacs.
The film becomes a test of endurance. Will you leave after you’ve seen someone burned alive, or can you stick it out until the daughter’s raped, the mother dies, and the baby seems doomed to be eaten? In this respect, “Hills” is not unlike “The Passion of the Christ,” except that at least the latter had Jesus on its side. The closest thing to a savior in this God-forsaken film is Emilie de Ravin (Claire from ABC’s “Lost”), whose irreverent Brenda Carter seems to be the only one realizing the absurdity of her current situation and the rules of wanton horror-film nudity. Perhaps, in her native Australian dialect, a strategically dropped “maybe the dingo ate your baby” would have redeemed this film — notice the one-star rating.
Most disturbing are the disfigured faces and anatomies of the mutant villains. Cursed with everything from cleft lips to bulging exterior brains to Picasso-inspired rearrangements, these freaks of nature make “The Hills Have Eyes” bearable only for those with strong stomachs, or for those who’ve exercised their tolerance of unpleasant appearances by watching the embarrassing “singing faces” of recent “American Idol” contestants.
But anything is preferable to sitting through this insufferable display of unoriginality and narrative impotence. It isn’t even a good, silly horror film, because nothing about it is even remotely scary – except, of course, the possibility that someone might actually enjoy watching something so bad. The worst film ever made, a cinematic train wreck, the fungus between the toes of a film that would actually deserve a single star — nope, words cannot do it justice.